Despite the vitriol surrounding the illegal-immigration issue in America, most people agree that illegal immigration needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, many liberals think the only way to stop illegal immigration is to open our borders to nearly unlimited immigration (either permanent status or work visas). Whereas, conservatives think that more border security can and should make our border impenetrable. I think neither is correct. The key to stopping illegal immigration is, not only to strengthen our border security, but also to reduce the incentive for illegal immigration and to apprehend and deport those who sneak themselves through our border security.
Currently, there are at least four major incentives for illegal immigration:
- Free public education;
- Free medical care; and
- Birthright citizenship.
Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have attempted to reduce employment opportunities for illegal immigrants by creating a database called E-Verify that employers can check to determine whether an employee or potential employee is a legal resident of America. Although the federal government has made use of the database voluntary, several states have enacted laws requiring employers to use E-Verify. One of those states is Arizona.
In 2007, Arizona enacted its Legal Arizona Workers Act, which requires employers to check E-Verify before hiring an individual. Although federal law (the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) prohibits employers from knowingly employing illegal immigrants, it does not require them to use E-Verify. Not surprisingly, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s E-Verify law (CPLC v. Napolitano), just as she has done with the HB 1070, and the legal rationale is the same – i.e., the federal law is supreme and pre-empts any state legislation on this issue. However, unlike HB 1070, a federal district judge has upheld the constitutionality of AZ’s E-Verify requirement and that ruling has been upheld by the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. On June 26, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the matter – now styled as U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria.
Legal commentators have suggested that, although AZ’s HB 1070 has received much more publicity, the E-Verify case may be more important because it is much further along in the review process and a Supreme Court decision will likely provide much guidance to the state legislatures that are attempting to craft legislation that attacks illegal immigration without being subject to preemption by the federal government. A decision is due before June 2011.
Free public education
I have previously addressed in my blog the incentive created by free public education for illegal immigrants. (See “Bad law – stuck on stupid”; June 25, 2010.) A Supreme Court decision in 1982 – Plyler v. Doe – required Texas to provide free education to illegal immigrants, and that decision can be reversed either by the Court recognizing that its reasoning is no longer appropriate or by Congress declaring that public education for illegal immigrants is contrary to sound immigration policy.
Free medical care and birthright citizenship
Although free, high-quality medical care is an incentive for illegal immigration, it would be contrary to American values to deny emergency care to anyone, even if that person has illegally entered America to have her baby in America. But there is absolutely no persuasive argument for granting American citizenship to that baby. Of course, the best interests of the child would be to receive citizenship, but America can’t be responsible for the best interests all of the children of the world. Unfortunately, Texas politicians seem to be standing in the way of clarifying the 14th Amendment. Maverick Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina has bravely proposed hearings on clarifying the 14th Amendment, but Texas Senator John Cornyn recently reversed his prior support for these hearings after meeting with some South Texas politicians.
Detecting and deporting illegal immigrants
Eliminating incentives for illegal immigration will cause a lot of self-deportation, as even liberals concede that illegal immigration has diminished because of the recession in America. But the elimination of incentives needs to be supplemented by detection and deportation. In the past few years, there have developed many pockets of protection for illegal immigrants – so-called sanctuary cities. Illegal immigrants in those cities have no fear of detection by local authorities because those authorities are expressly prohibited from reporting illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Some argue that Houston and San Antonio are sanctuary cities because of their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies.
Arizona’s HB 1070 is essentially an anti-sanctuary law and is the most robust attempt by a political entity to detect illegal immigrants. But the law is being challenged by the federal government, and even worse, there are recent news reports that the Obama administration has virtually ceased deportation of illegal immigrants unless they are caught violating criminal laws. Thus, even if local officials detect illegal immigrants, the federal government may decline to deport them.
If HB 1070 is upheld, the continued refusal of the President to enforce our nation’s immigration law could result in a constitutional crisis or even impeachment.